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Motion Sickness

man looking over line
animated waves

***Caution: This article is for information purposes only. Be sure to try anything BEFORE a dive trip to test for side affects and talk to your doctor about using anything before diving.***

Life isn't fair when it comes to motion sickness. I have been diving since 1989 and have been bothered by motion sickness on dive boats, not enough to be really sick, but enough to feel queasy. My wife, on the other hand, began diving in 1998, and is not affected by motion sickness at all.

There are different theories as to why people get motion sickness. Some might say it is all in your mind, others say it has to do with the fluid levels in your inner ear. Your eyes see the waves and the boat tipping, but your inner ear does not, giving different readings to your brain. It's not known why some people suffer from motion sickness and others do not. It's also not known why children 3-12 are most affected by motion sickness (guess I am just a kid at heart). Some believe it is because the level of fluid varies in people's inner ears. Anxiety, fatigue, being overheated, and other illnesses can contribute to motion sickness.

Some things to help avoiding becoming sick on a boat are: Avoid breathing exhaust fumes from the boat, face forward, fix your eyes on a stationary object such as the horizon, get plenty of air, get your gear ready before leaving the harbor and getting into rougher water, don't eat greasy food, eat moderately and at least one to two hours before getting on the boat, eat bland foods before and on the boat, drink plenty of fluids (avoid caffeine), wear loose clothing, and position yourself optimally on the boat. Most articles about motion sickness advise a person to stay low and in the center of the boat, because this is where the least amount of motion is. However, getting in the bow of the boat and facing forward works the best for me. This gives me plenty of air and I can look at the horizon better. Everyone is different, so see what works for you. There are many products made to combat motion sickness. Some will work for one person, and not for another. Try to be the first in the water and the last out, usually motion sickness symptoms will leave while you are in the water. One note, if the surface is very choppy it could make your symptoms worse.

These recommendations have not all been tried by me. Some are gadgets, some are natural cures, and others are medications bought at a drug store. Some medications are over the counter and some are prescription drugs. Tell your doctor if you are planning on diving while using any prescription drugs and try before going diving. Try anything else before a dive trip to see if there are any side effects. Some drugs can make a person drowsy and cause dry mouth.

glasses with line

One of the most interesting motion sickness cures would have to be artificial-horizon glasses, by Tempest, a European company --- Glasses with a horizontal line across the middle of the lens, giving the wearer a horizon to always see in front of them, no matter where they look. Haven't tried them, but wonder if the line would be worse than wearing a dirty pair of glasses. I might just go crazy and jump overboard. Who knows --- maybe they could work for you.

sea bands

Another gadget that I actually put some credibility in are Sea Bands. They are wrist bands that have a piece of hard plastic that push on an acupressure point. It sounds almost painful the way I describe them, however they are painless. A friend of mine who is a massage therapist and who is familiar with pressure points told me that the right wrist acupressure point helps the lower abdomen, and the left wrist helps the upper abdomen. The right wrist acupressure point would help to calm the stomach, so this is the most important point to help with motion sickness. She told me when she gets a little queasy riding in a car she just presses her thumb on the pressure point in her right wrist to relieve the symptoms of motion sickness. I have tried this and it seems to help me. I haven't actually used the Sea Bands on a boat, however it seems that it could really help some people.

There are a few natural cures that have been used. The most commonly used is ginger. It comes in different forms and can be bought at health food stores in capsules. Ginger is reported to help before going on a boat and also after becoming ill. Many of the other products taken work before becoming uncomfortable. Once you become ill they do not help to relieve the sick feeling. Other natural products are peppermint oil, borax, cocculus, nux vomica (no, this name is not a joke), petroleum, staphysagria, and tabacum. Again, the one that is used most of the time is ginger, however check out your favorite health food store and see what they might recommend. The only three things you have to loose are your money, your pride, and your lunch.

The motion sickness medications available from a druggist have known to be effective, too. The problem with these medications is that most will make a person drowsy. Try any before diving and see what effect they have on you. You don't want to find out under water on a dive that a medication puts you to sleep. Dramamine, Marezine, and Bonine are common over the counter medications. Bonine and Marezine have been known to help after feeling ill.

Scopolamine, a prescription medication, is available as a tablet and soon, if not already, by patches that are being released again on the market. The trademark names for these products is SCOPACE (tablet) and Transderm Scop (patch). Scopolamine is also available as a gel that is placed on the wrists. In this form it works more quickly, but not as long as the patch. I used the patch a few years ago and it worked most of the time, however once or twice it didn't. There was supposedly a quality assurance problem with Transderm Scop and it was taken off the market in 1994. It has been okayed to be marketed again. Talk to your doctor about using these products.

Some people may have their own recipes for motion sickness cures. On my first boat trip out into the ocean a lady told me her remedy for motion sickness was to drink a coke and eat half a loaf of bread before boarding a boat. (Even though caffeine drinks aren't recommended for diving or to help motion sickness.) On two separate days of boat diving in Hawaii, where the water was pretty choppy, I did this and wasn't bothered by sea sickness. I stayed on the bow and got plenty of air, too. I'm not sure what helped, just glad my stomach felt okay.

Others may have something that works for them and may share it with you. Just be careful about what medications you take while diving. Some of them may make you sleepy and may even increase the effects of nitrogen narcosis. See what works for you. Please send in any more ideas to me. Help stamp out motion sickness. (Corny, but what can I say?)

***Caution: This article is for information purposes only. Be sure to try anything BEFORE a dive trip to test for side affects and talk to your doctor about using anything before diving.***

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